When Shakespeare retired from London around 1610, he spent the last few years of his life in New Place – one of Stratford-upon-Avon’s largest houses which he purchased in 1597. Unlike Shakespeare’s Birthplace on Henley Street, New Place was pulled down in the 18th century.
Today, Shakespeare enthusiasts can still visit the site of the house which has now been turned into an Elizabethan garden. Nash’s House, the building next door, still remains and serves as a museum dedicated to Tudor life and New Place. Both sites are cared for by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
New Place, once described as a “pretty house of brick and timber,” was built towards the end of the 15th century and bought by Shakespeare in 1597 – although he did not live there until his retirement from London in 1610.
On display in the adjoining museum is a sketch of New Place by George Vertue showing the main house (where Shakespeare lived) enclosed by a courtyard. These street-facing buildings would have been the servant’s quarters.
New Place was demolished and rebuilt in 1702 by the new owner. The house was rebuilt in brick and stone but it only survived another 57 years. In 1759, the new owner, Reverend Francis Gastrell, quarreled with the town authorities over taxation and Gastrell had the house permanently demolished in 1759.
New Place was never again rebuilt and only the foundations of the house remain.
Shakespeare’s Mulberry Tree
Gastrell also caused controversy when he removed Shakespeare’s mulberry tree. It is said that Shakespeare planted a mulberry tree in the gardens of New Place, which posthumously attracted visitors. Gastrell complained that it made the house damp and had it chopped for firewood – or perhaps, Gastrell wanted to deter the visitors!
Thomas Sharpe, an enterprising local clockmaker and carpenter, bought most of the wood and carved Shakespeare mementos from it. The museum in Nash’s House displays some of the artifacts said to be made from Shakespeare’s mulberry tree.